The Poetry Project

Master Class

Consent, Augment, Curve: A Master Class with Lisa Robertson

I hope we can talk and write through the above ideas or actions—consent, augment, curve—by drawing gregariously deviant lines among some texts by Simone Weil, Edouard Glissant, Fred Moten, and Emile Benveniste.

This constellation came to me after I completed a small book on Simon Weil, which includes my translation of her 1942 essay “What the Occitan Inspiration Consists of.” In this essay, Weil cites Agathon’s speech from Plato’s Symposium, in order to open the idea that love is nothing but the practise of mutual consent, and that consent is what love shares with politics. By means of consent, love and just law remain the opposite of force she says. She was writing as a migrant refugee trying to leave Nazi occupied France. Now we read her in a different world, a world now not less fractured by force.

Moten, in Black and Blur, posits his wildly symphonic thinking on a statement by Glissant: “Consent not to be a single being.” Elsewhere, in his text “For Opacity,” Glissant states, “Widespread consent to specific opacities is the most straightforward equivalent of nonbarbarism.”

And Benveniste traces the institutional etymology of the concept of authorship to augmentation, and thence to life force, or oja.

I sense these texts speaking together. They share a baroque sensibility for the wild elliptical curve that has more than a single center, the Keplerian curve that “won’t stop, keeps getting deeper… this constant irruptive unfolding” in Moten’s terms.

I would like to see what happens if we think and write together for an afternoon in accordance with this irruptive curve, which is also the elliptical curvature of consent.